Turning off the dirt road toward the Inyati Private Game Reserve entrance gate, the anticipation was building – this was my South African safari, in Sabi Sands no less. The shuttle driver escorted me to the gift shop entrance which also serves as the check in desk. I was welcomed and taken to the bar/lounge area to complete the paperwork. Looking around and out toward the river, I just felt a sense of calmness that made the bumpy ride in well worth it. As i arrived at lunchtime, I was given a lunch menu to pick my meal which would be made for me while I settled into my room (lunch is not normally served at the lodge, just for arriving guests in between meals).
The Common Areas
The main building houses the bar/lounge area, restaurant with indoor/outdoor seating and outdoor lounge to relax as you look out at the water or chat with other guests.
There is a swimming pool located close to the main building, an outdoor viewing deck over the river with seating and apparently a gym (I’m on vacation where there are no calories and subsequently no need for the gym until i get home).
My Room (Chalet)
I was booked into the Executive Chalet due to my last minute booking (two months prior!). With only eleven rooms on the property, I can see how they are quickly booked up in prime season. As we approached the chalet, there is a small ramp to the deck and front door. The deck had privacy should I wish to sit outside, but there might be monkeys!
I was warned of the monkeys and to always keep the doors locked and closed at all times (smart monkeys would try to take my lunch in the main lodge after my orientation! – Monkey 0, Sue 1). As the door was opened (sliding doors), I entered the massive room (I really was glamping the safari, wasn’t I?). I noticed the high ceilings immediately and then realized this was the room from the website and I really liked the room on the website. The king size bed (which was very comfy) was surrounded by mosquito netting.
Looking past the bed, the other set of sliding doors led to a small deck in back with two chairs with a view of the bush (I would see Impala here during my stay). The bedroom side of the chalet also had a small minibar stocked with bottled water (complimentary) and two chairs. I was disappointed that the welcome packet and note were addressed to “Dear Guest”, I think this could have easily been personalized. My hotel OCD kicked in and I read every page of the packet and examined all parts of the room.
With a small wall separating the spaces, the bathroom area contained a jacuzzi tub in the corner, a large walk in shower with a stone floor finish, vanity area with two sinks (the toiletries basket contained fresh flowers which was a nice touch) and a separate water closet. There was an outdoor shower area as well.
With the monkey warning (they really do take security seriously) you are not allowed to walk to/from your room in the morning or evening alone, you must be escorted by staff as animals can (and do) walk through the property especially given the proximity to the river and the fact that the property is not fenced in. I was carrying my own torch (flashlight) which I used at all my safari camps and always carry with me. In the morning, staff would come by each room as the “wake up call” and then arrange a time to come back when you were ready to go to the main building.
The game drives were offered twice a day – morning and afternoon. I was assigned to Khimbini as my guide and his brother, Richard would be our tracker. The vehicles are stocked with water and blankets (you will use them!) as well as coffee/biscuits in the morning and your choice of sundowner (drink) in the evening. After the morning drive, a few guests ventured on a tour of the village (arranged prior to arrival by their travel agent) but other than that, nothing was offered in between the drives. I could have used the gym on the property to work off all the biscuits but did not bring gym attire with me (hmmm, intentional maybe as this was vacation), used the pool, relaxed on the viewing platform or even on my own decks. I would hear later that the other guide took his guests on a walking tour along the river. I just crashed into my very comfortable bed after some reading for a nap until the next drive (naps are wonderful).
The food at the lodge was quite good and definitely plentiful. In the morning, there was coffee and pastries before the drive. During the drive if you had time you would stop for a coffee break (love the crunchies!). After the morning drive, you would come back to a large table full of food, a special of the day as well as ala cart made to order. You had tea time before the evening drive, if time allowed, a sundowner break during the drive. Arriving back to freshen up, you were escorted to dinner and often had time for drinks in the bar to chat with the other guests. You definitely won’t go hungry.
The chef was made aware of my dairy restriction in my reservation and made all of my food/dessert dairy free. One day, I had to go rogue as i spied brownies at tea time (I had been chocolate free for ten days since arriving in Africa, i was desparate). I asked a young staff member (who didn’t know of my restriction) to save one for me after the drive. Later at dinner, he presented me with three! ( I mentioned him by name on the survey as being super helpful and attentive!) at which point the chef came out (my luck, of course) with my special made dairy free dessert and caught me with the brownie (she didn’t look thrilled). I thanked her and ate the dessert and then of course, tried my best to finish the small brownies – if you are going to go rogue, give it your best shot, especially if you have a nice glass of Pinotage.
As guests are rotating in and out every day, dinner in the boma (bbq) area is done every other night. I was lucky with my three night stay to dine twice in the boma on the property. It had a small fence around it and you entered the sand pit with a U shaped table facing the large outdoor grill. After dinner, the staff would put on a performance of local song and dance. It was fantastic, I wished i had recorded it but i was too caught up in the music nd the dancing – what an experience. Everyone seemed to be having fun, it really was one of the highlights of my stay.
The guests during my visit were in the 40-60’s age range with a diverse group of U.S., German, Brazilian and a local South African travel agent on a site visit. Many couples, a few groups and the lone solo traveler (me). People on vacation/holiday, honeymooners, anniversary celebrations, etc. Everyone was friendly and this mix worked out well. The game drives were never the same in terms of animals or guests as each was every changing. I met interesting, well-traveled people and we shared our travel stories over glasses of wine looking out toward the river and comparing notes/photos on what animals we saw that day.
For my first South African safari, Inyati was a good choice. The lodging was luxurious to me at the entry level Sabi Sands price point (not to say it wasn’t expensive, it was), the staff was super attentive, accomodating and friendly and the game drives (which I will post about separately) were addicting as each one was never quite like the one before – I didn’t want to miss out on any part of the experience – there was time to sleep on the plane home! If you are considering the Sabi Sands Game Reserve for your South African safari, then definitely consider Inyati as an option – I’m glad my travel agent recommended it – it felt like a secret place.